Article by Ambeshwar Nath
With emerging retail channels and higher competition, today's retailer needs to exploit new ways of inspiring customer loyalty as customer satisfaction is not enough, customer delight is the new mantra for customer retention.
To date, self-service implementations in a retail environment have primarily consisted of kiosk stations or self-service check-out stands. For example, a scan of an item can show the price, while guided menus can help locate a particular product, all without the need of store personnel.
With over half of all e-retail traffic now coming via smartphones and tablets (source: IMRG Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report for UK), the mobile commerce industry is at the cusp of exponential growth. This provides a great opportunity for retailers to exploit and combine eCommerce, social media and native mobility such as location-based services into a powerful, omni-engaged customer channel.
Most retailers have understood the need to have mobile apps; however, only one in ten currently offers in-store features in their mobile applications. While many retailers recognise the growing opportunity provided by mobile, they have not been as forthcoming to make the investments.
Ways retailers can improve customer loyalty through in-store mobility: Be relevant
In a recent survey of the top 100 retailers, it was surprising that the pharmacy and drug stores retail sector were far ahead of the others on leveraging mobile apps (source: Xtreme Labs Retail apps report). Retailers such as Walgreens and CVS' strong performances are based on the fact that they provide apps with immediate utility and relevancy. Users can manage their pharmacy prescriptions, find promotions and pick up their orders in the stores. Though the shipping is mobile-focused, the experience is oriented toward improving a user's in-store experience.
For companies such as IKEA that are known for good in-store experience but limited in-store mobile experience, such results are a signal for a call to action.
Leverage mobile to create an emotional bond
Retailers can take advantage of mobile apps both within stores and outside to create a holistic customer experience personalised to their needs.
For instance, Saks Fifth Avenue is replicating the in-store dressing room experience through an iPad app. The app digitally outfits an 'avatar' with a similar body type of the consumer to help the customer make an informed choice and ultimately leading to reduced returns and a more satisfied customer.
To expand their mobile audience, The Home Depot explored native functionalities that only a mobile device can provide. They recently implemented augmented reality functionality using the smart-phone's built-in camera. Users can use the apps to overlay select merchandise images, such as appliances, on the top of their current environment, like a kitchen, and visualise how it would look.
Understand your customer and keep it simple
About 40 per cent of customers use their mobile applications while shopping in stores
(source: CFIG group). Mobile app users are currently leveraging their apps to check product reviews and research product information as well as to check price offers by other retailers and hunt for discounts.
Considering that only one in four shoppers know exactly what they are looking for when first accessing information on their mobile device, driving regular content updates and leveraging location-based services are key to engaging and retaining your customers.
Invest in technology
As the line blurs between traditional and e-retail with models such as 'click and collect' moving to mainstream retailing, retailers need to step up their investments in technology.
Recently, Meijer, an American hypermarket chain, rolled out Wi-Fi access in all its stores and timed it with its loyalty program reaching the one million members mark. The in-store efforts supported a bigger mobile strategy from the grocery chain in building up awareness and use for the mobile app to drive coupon redemption.
Safeway, another US-based supermarket chain can now communicate with consumers via iBeacons, which use short-range, low-energy Bluetooth transmitters to send contextually relevant alerts to mobile devices within 100 feet of the store location. The iBeacons may tell consumers to redeem coupons, earn points or pick-up items on their shopping lists.
With the increasing competition to win the customer, retailers will need to step up their efforts on leveraging in-store mobile capabilities to enhance the overall customer experience. They will need to make this an integral part of their customer engagement - not simply limited to the traditional
kiosks but extend it to the mobile devices of their customers. Relevancy and intimacy will be key to winning the heart, mind and wallet of the 'new' customer.